Joan Eardley landscape pastels

Joan Eardley And Her Pastel Landscapes

Okay, tell me straight, have you heard of Joan Eardley (1921-1963)? I was introduced to this artist’s work in 2012 and have been an ardent admirer ever since. Whether or not you know her work, I’m delighted to introduce Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes.

Although born in England, Joan Eardley is considered a Scottish painter. Her Scottish mother and her sister (her father had taken his life earlier) moved to Scotland to avoid the bombing in London during the war and with only a few exceptions of time spent in London and on the continent, Eardley spent most of her life there. In 1954, she started living in Catterline, a village on the coast of Scotland. It was here she painted her landscapes and seascapes.

Sadly her art career lasted only about 15 years with her early death from breast cancer in 1963 at age 42. One can only imagine how her work would have evolved if she’d lived longer! Eardley is most well-known for two themes – the paintings of children in the Townhead area of Glasgow, and those done around the fishing village of Catterline, just south of Aberdeen. Such a contrast between the urban grubbiness and colour of slum children and the wild rural land and sea of north east coast Scotland!

A while back, I wrote a blog about Eardley’s pastels of Glasgow’s tenement kids. From the mid-1950s, she began painting landscapes more and more. No doubt this came as a result of her beginning to live in Catterline in 1954 (after a number of visits since 1950). There is such a directness and immediacy in Joan Eardley’s capturing of the spirit of this place.

 

Joan Eardley outside the Watch House, Catterline, 1955. Photograph by Audrey Walker. From The Scottish Gallery catalogue, In Context

Joan Eardley outside the Watch House, Catterline, 1955. Photograph by Audrey Walker. From The Scottish Gallery catalogue, In Context. This photo looks as if Eardley could be working in pastels!

 

Eardley’s Catterline paintings were often of the wild stormy seas under turbulent skies in this  part of Scotland. Most of her best paintings of the seascape were done in the last two years of her life. Here are three very small pastels done during that time. They capture with vigorous strokes, a swiftly changing stormy sky, where Eardley reveals the energy and grandeur of nature. You can imagine her grabbing sheet after sheet of paper, with joy and fervour attempting to put down what’s before her.

 

Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes: Joan Eardley, "Sea and Stormy Clouds," c.1962-63, pastel on paper, 6 7/8 x 9 1/4 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “Sea and Stormy Clouds,” c.1962-63, pastel on paper, 6 7/8 x 9 1/4 in, Private Collection

 

Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes: Joan Eardley, "Black Sky with Blue Sea," c.1962-63, pastel on paper, 7 7/8 x 10 in, Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

Joan Eardley, “Black Sky with Blue Sea,” c.1962-63, pastel on paper, 7 7/8 x 10 in, Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. You can see the remains of rusty tack marks in the upper corners.

 

Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes: Joan Eardley, "An Ominous Cloud," c.1962-63, pastel on paper, 7 1/2 x 9 5/8 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “An Ominous Cloud,” c.1962-63, pastel on paper, 7 1/2 x 9 5/8 in, Private Collection

 

You can sense Eardley’s full-on observation of the sea and sky which has also been intensely experienced. In an interview with the BBC in 1963 (the year of her death), Eardley said:

“With landscape, when I’m painting in the North East, I hardly ever move out of the village – I hardly ever move from one spot! I’m trying to do something and you’re never really satisfied with what you’re doing so you keep on trying and the more you try, the more you think of new things, new ways of doing this particular subject and so you just go on and on or you might just turn around in the middle of doing a certain painting and you see something else and you run back and get another canvas and try and do that. But it’s still the same spot really and it’s probably the same feeling that you’re trying to grasp. I suppose I’m essentially a romantic. I believe in sort of emotion that you get from what your eyes show you and what you feel about certain things. ” 

(I transcribed this snippet from a 2013 BBC show marking 50 years since her death. To hear it, click here and tune in at 32:40. After Eardley’s words, the interviewer talks to Anne Morrison, Eardley’s niece, and author Christopher Andreae.)

 

The next two larger pieces show ominous skies over the land rather than the sea.

 

Joan Eardleyand her pastel landscapes: Joan Eardley, "Stormy Sky Over Catterline," c.1962-63, pastel on paper, 8 x 9 7/8 in, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

Joan Eardley, “Stormy Sky Over Catterline,” c.1962-63, pastel on paper, 8 x 9 7/8 in, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. I can feel the violence of the storm through the pastel marks.

 

Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes: Joan Eardley, "Barley Fields," c.1961-1962, pastel on paper, 8 7/8 x 8 1/4 in, Private Collection. The sky is dark, the wind blows and you can feel the rustling of grasses. You can see in this pastel, the visual language that emerged. You can see the same markings in her gouache and oil paintings.

Joan Eardley, “Barley Fields,” c.1961-1962, pastel on paper, 8 7/8 x 8 1/4 in, Private Collection. The sky is dark, the wind blows and you can feel the rustling of grasses. You can see in this pastel, the visual language that emerged. You can see the same markings in Eardley’s gouache and oil paintings.

 

Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes: Joan Eardley, "Summer Fields," c. 1961, oil and grasses on hardboard, 41 3/4 x 59 in (106 x 150 cm), Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Joan Eardley, “Summer Fields,” c. 1961, oil and grasses on hardboard, 41 3/4 x 59 in (106 x 150 cm), Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. I wanted you to see how the pastel marks for flowers and grass translated into paint.

 

When the weather was clear, we get these light-filled pastels. They may have been done slightly earlier than the ones above as it seems it was the sea that consumed much of her last year or so of painting. Apparently after starting to live at Catterline, she didn’t start by painting the sea – she said she had not yet worked out how to do it (Andreae, p 29). She needed to spend time with it and understand it.

Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes: Joan Eardley, "Small Landscape Sketch," pastel, 5 x 8 in, Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries, Scotland

Joan Eardley, “Small Landscape Sketch,” n.d., pastel, 5 x 8 in, Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries, Scotland

 

Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes: Joan Eardley, "Landscape Study," pastel on joined paper, 8 1/2 x 9 in, Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries, Scotland

Joan Eardley, “Landscape Study,” n.d., pastel on joined paper, 8 1/2 x 9 in, Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries, Scotland

 

Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes: Joan Eardley, "Sheep Study," n.d., chalk and conte, 6 1/2 x 6 1/2 in, Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries, Scotland

Joan Eardley, “Sheep Study,” n.d., chalk and conte, 6 1/2 x 6 1/2 in, Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries, Scotland

 

Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes: Joan Eardley, "Landscape Little Larch Wood," n.d., pastel, 5 x 12 in, Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries, Scotland

Joan Eardley, “Landscape Little Larch Wood,” n.d., pastel, 5 x 12 in, Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries, Scotland

 

Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes: Joan Eardley, "Beehives, Catterline," n.d., pastel, 8 1/4 x 7 7/8 in, The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh

Joan Eardley, “Beehives, Catterline,” n.d., pastel on joined paper, 8 1/4 x 7 7/8 in, The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh

 

Joan Eardley pastel landscapes: Joan Eardley, "Autumn at Catterline," pastel on joined paper, 4 3/8 x 12 5/8 in, The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh

Joan Eardley, “Autumn at Catterline,” pastel on joined paper, 4 3/8 x 12 5/8 in, The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh

 

The pastel below is an earlier one. You can see how much more detailed Eardley was in her recording of a scene. Her later pastels also describe so much more of her own visceral reaction to what she was seeing and experiencing.

Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes: Joan Eardley, "Catterline Cottages," c. 1954-57, pastel on paper, 9 1/2 x 13 1/2 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “Catterline Cottages,” c. 1954-57, pastel on paper, 9 1/2 x 13 1/2 in, Private Collection

 

 

Catterline was a fishing village and the boats and nets were another favourite subject for Eardley.

Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes: Joan Eardley, "Fishing Nets Hung Up," pastel on two sheets of yellow paper, 8 1/2 x 15 1/8 in, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

Joan Eardley, “Fishing Nets Hung Up,” n.d.pastel on two sheets of yellow paper, 8 1/2 x 15 1/8 in, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

 

Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes: Joan Eardley, "Study For Drying Nets," 1956, charcoal and pastel on paper, 7 7/8 x 10 1/8 in, Private Collection

Joan Eardley, “Study For Drying Nets,” 1956, charcoal and pastel on paper, 7 7/8 x 10 1/8 in, Private Collection. You can see how expressively Eardley used pastel, in much the same way she used oil paint.

 

Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes

Joan Eardley, “Drying Salmon Nets,” 1956, oil on canvas, 27 x 60 1/2 in, Private Collection. I wanted you to see the large oil obviously based on the pastels above!

 

Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes: Joan Eardley walking among the drying salmon nets at Catterline. c.1954-63. Photograph Audrey Walker

Joan Eardley walking among the drying salmon nets at Catterline. c.1954-63. Photograph Audrey Walker

 

Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes: Catterline with fishing nets visible. Photograph by Audrey Walker.

Catterline with fishing nets visible. Photograph by Audrey Walker. From The Scottish Gallery catalogue, In Context

 

Watch this short video to hear Joan Eardley’s voice and to get a sense of this place called Catterline.

 

Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes: Joan Eardley at Catterline, Summer 1961. Photograph by Audrey Walker. From The Scottish Gallery catalogue, In Context

Joan Eardley at Catterline, Summer 1961. Photograph by Audrey Walker. From The Scottish Gallery catalogue, In Context. I love this photo of a relaxed and happy Joan doing what she loved most.

 

So tell me, what do you think of Joan Eardley and her pastel landscapes? Do they move you?

If you’re planning on being in Scotland during the first few months of 2017, do take in the exhibition of her work at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art! I would sooooooo love to see it! You never know. Maybe I’ll be asked to do a workshop in Scotland 🙂

~~~~~

Just one other thing, in my researching for this blog, I was on Amazon and discovered a new book by Fiona Pearson and Sara Stevenson on Joan Eardley. As always, I took a gander at the reviews and low and behold, to my total surprise and tickled-pink delight, I found this:

“Recommended. Joan Eardley should be more well-known in the U.S.A. Here is an excellent article about her, which discusses why her work is important better and more thoroughly than a reviewer can say in a few brief words: http://www.howtopastel.com/2014/10/joan-eardley-pastels-of-slum-kids/”

Cool huh?! (Sorry, had to brag a bit!)

 

Okay, that wraps it up for this blog.

Until next time,

~ Gail

 

PS. Sources for images used here are from Christopher Andreae’s wonderful book, Joan Eardley, Lund Humphries, 2013, pp 58, 61,76, 142, 148, 154; and also The Scottish Gallery, the Gracefield Arts Centre and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

For Canadian purchasers:

For international buyers:

 

And this is the book I referred to but haven’t seen yet

International:

Canadian:

10 thoughts on “Joan Eardley And Her Pastel Landscapes

  1. Gailen Lovett

    New to me. Her marks exquisitely express her emotional response to her subjects. I backtracked to the blog about the children and agree whole heartedly – charming and sad at the same time. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  2. Linda Green

    Such expressive landscapes. What a place she had to paint. So sad she did not live very long so that she could have taken her vision even further.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Aren’t they just Linda. And yes, I would so love to visit Catterline.
      Incredibly sad she died so young. Imagine where she would have gone in her work had she had more time. And, more time would also have meant a wider audience that’s for sure!

      Reply
  3. John Butler

    Hi Gail
    The mother of a good friend of ours was Joan Eardley’s sister.
    Jim and his wife have quite a few framed prints of Joan’s paintings around their home in Perth (The Capital of Western Australia, not the Perth in Scotland) 🙂 and Zoe and I get to see them when we visit.

    Regards

    John & Zoe Butler
    Albany, Western Australia

    Reply
  4. Mark Brockman

    Just came across your blog on Joan Eardley. I discovered her about the same time you did. Love her work. Being a pastel artist myself it was nice to see so many of Earley’s pastels. Just where di you find them? I’ve been looking for samples of her pastels and came across only few. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      Hi Mark,
      Lovely to meet another lover of Joan Eardley work!
      The images came from Gallery and the book by Christopher Andreae as noted at the end of the blog.
      Did you also see my blog on the tenement kids?

      Reply
  5. Mark Brockman

    Gail, no but I’ll check it out, though I have a book on Eardley with paintings of the kids. When I first saw them I wasn’t sure but after looking at photos of those children I think she honestly captured them. Such a shame Eardley had such a short life, image what she would have done with a long career.

    Reply
    1. Gail Sibley Post author

      I know, that’s such a huge question – where would her work have taken her. And if she’d lived longer, I am sure she’d be revered by many more people! Still, she’s gaining her place now in the painting world.

      Reply

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